Canadian organizations ill-prepared to manage increasing absenteeism among
employees

OTTAWA, June 3 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadian organizations generally do not track employee absenteeism well, even though rates-already high by international standards-are on the rise, according to findings from the Conference Board of Canada's survey of employer-sponsored benefits, released today.

"Absenteeism rates reached their highest point in several years in 2008-09. The implications of absenteeism for organizations are significant - both in terms of lost wages and productivity, and in the potential to substantially reduce costs through better management of their programs," said Karla Thorpe, Associate Director, Compensation and Industrial Relations.

"Canadian organizations offer fairly standard programs - notably sick leave, short-term disability and long-term disability - to deal with employee absences. But less than half of surveyed organizations track absenteeism rates and only a fraction of respondents track costs."

The first step to controlling absenteeism is to measures rates and direct costs. Organizations have traditionally focused on watching their long-term disability programs more closely than sick leave or short-term disability programs. Yet, the survey found that an average of nine per cent of full-time employees were on short-term disability in 2008.

Only 40 per cent of the 255 survey respondents indicated that they track absenteeism rates. These organizations reported that they lost 6.6 days per full-time equivalent position, an increase from previous Conference Board Compensation Planning Outlook surveys. The direct cost of absenteeism averaged 2.6 per cent of payroll in these organizations in 2008. Education and health (8.9 days) and government (7.9 days) reported the highest absenteeism rates.

The absenteeism rate reported by Canadian organizations is higher than the rate found in both the United States and United Kingdom. According to data from Mercer, organizations in the United States had an absenteeism rate of 5.3 days per year in a survey conducted in mid-2008. According to data from SimplyHealth, organizations in the United Kingdom had an absenteeism rate of "less than 5 days per year" in a survey conducted in early 2009.

The report, Beyond Benefits II: Disability Plans and Absence Management in Canadian Workplaces, outlines steps that organizations can take to better manage their programs, which include:

    
    -   Identifying the root causes of absenteeism;
    -   Taking proactive steps to improve the health and well-being of
        employees;
    -   Having a return-to-work program in place;
    -   Focusing on communication and education;
    -   Getting involved early when employees are absent; and
    -   Keeping in constant contact with employees on leave.
    

Beyond Benefits II: Disability Plans and Absence Management in Canadian Workplaces is the third report in a series based on the findings of the first Conference Board survey of employer-sponsored benefit programs, conducted in 2009.

The previous publications included Benefits Benchmarking 2009: Balancing Competitiveness and Costs, which reported the overall results of the survey; and Beyond Benefits: Creating a Culture of Health and Wellness in Canadian Organizations, which focused on respondents' health and wellness programs. The publications are available to Conference Board subscribers at www.e-library.ca.

SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: For further information: Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: (613) 526-3090 ext. 448, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca


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